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A look inside what makes cruise control work

[Todd Harrison] took a look inside the business end of the cruise control system from his 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee. We were a bit surprised at how the system operates. The parts seen in the image above make up the throttle control, using a trio of solenoids to vary the level of vacuum inside the device.

We categorized this as a repair hack, but [Todd] is just rubbernecking and doesn’t have any real plan to fix the system. It’s been on the fritz for ten years and this piece may not even be the culprit. But we’re still satisfied because he gives us a look at the system which uses the amber-colored stoppers on the three solenoids to plug three different sizes of weep holes. The unit is a vacuum enclosure where a throttle wire connects to a rubber diaphragm and adjust engine speed as the diaphragm moves. The vehicle’s computer actuates the three solenoids, allowing leakage to vary the level of vacuum, thereby keeping the throttle at just the right level. Neat!

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Turning a bunch of solenoids into a performance of Stomp

Say you have a handful of solenoids, a copy of MaxMSP, an Arduino, and access to a whole bunch of parts in a textile museum. What do you do? If you’re like [Luke], you’ll probably come up with an Arduinofied performance of Stomp, played on dozens of old gears, light fixtures, and various other metal parts.

To control what noise sounds when, [Luke] used a Touch OSC interface running on an iPad to send MIDI information to Ableton. From there, MAX/MSP sends messages to an Arduino to actuate the solenoids on cue. The interface is set up so anyone can make their own compositions by reusing patterns into loops of solenoids making noise. Sure, it’s not the dulcet tones you would expect from a more traditional instrument, but [Luke] manages to put on a good show.

While [Luke]‘s instrument may sound overly mechanical and dissonant, it’s entirely possible to replace the objects he’s hitting with the solenoids with something a little more melodious. Putting a few solenoids in a cave wouldn’t be a bad idea; too bad it’s already been done.

A closer looks helps you build your own DiWire Bender

Whether or not you’re actually going to build this CNC wire bender, we think you’ll love getting a closer look at how it’s put together. The team over at PENSA got such a strong response from a look at the original machine that they decided to film a video (embedded after the break) showing how the thing was put together. They’ve also posted a repository with code, bom, etc.

In the image above [Marco] shows off the portion that actually does the bending. It’s designed to mount on the pipe through which the straightened wire is fed. The 3d printed mounting bracket really makes this a lot easier. The assembly provides a place to attach the solenoid which moves a bearing in and out of position. That bearing presses against the wire to do the bending, but must be moved from one side of the wire to the other depending on the direction of the next bend. This is a lot easier to understand after watching the demo video which is also embedded after the break.

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Shake phone to start scooter

This scooter starts right up with a shake of your Android device. This shake must be done from front-to-back, because a side-to-side shake is reserved for unlocking the saddle ([Brad] stores his helmet within).

Connectivity is facilitated over Bluetooth, with a rocker switch near the left handle bar to disable the receiver so that you don’t run down the battery. You can see the locking panel hanging open on the front portion of the scooter. Inside he installed the driver board which patches into the ignition system and drives a solenoid for the seat latch. It sounds like the latching mechanism used a bowden cable whose handle was inside that locking panel. By adding a solenoid and generously lubricating the cable he  managed to get it functioning from the driver board.

Check out the video after the break for a proper demonstration. The phone is running a Python script via SL4A, which takes care of the user interface.

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Motion sprinkler chases away defecating dogs

Don’t want dogs pooping on the front lawn? You could put up a sign, your could chase them away like a crotchety old miser, or you could build a motion detecting sprinkler system. It’s pretty hard to line up for a doody when you’re getting sprayed in the face (or worse) with cold water.

The setup is pretty simple. The bump-in image above shows the view from a webcam. The server monitoring the video is running software that detects motion between one frame and the next. When it sees something in the right position it signals an Arduino to trigger the solenoid which has been holding back the water. Check out the movie after the break which shows [Phil Tucker] tramping across the grass to trigger the  trap.

Sprinkler hacks are always a lot of fun. This variable-range sprinkler is still one of our favorites.

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Player guitar sounds wonderful; makes us drool because of the complexity

It becomes obvious when you listen to this player guitar that it’s not a human being playing. But the only reason for that is the unrelenting precision with which the songs are played. In addition to that accuracy, it’s interesting to note that this tune is normally played by a group of guitarists but here the machine manages to do it on one instrument. And we think it sounds fantastic!

This comes from [Vladimir Demin], a maker who previously built an automatic Bayan (like an accordion but with buttons where the keyboard is normally found). This time around it’s the six strings and many frets of a guitar that have been outfitted with one solenoid each. In the image above you can see the strumming mechanism mounted near the tone hole. Six picks are held in place, and it appears that each has two solenoids. From what we can observe in the video, one of the solenoids is used to strum the sting, the other tilts the pick mount so that there won’t be a second strumming when the pick is returned to its starting position.

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Dexterity enhancing guitar

[Justin Lange's] dad loves playing guitar, but an accident left him with nerve damage that makes it pretty much impossible these days. He just doesn’t have the dexterity needed to form the cords using his left hand. But his son’s hacking skills are helping him get back into it. [Justin] built a button-based add-on that forms the cords for him.

The build has two parts. A frame mounts over the finger board with slots for eighteen solenoids which push the strings down between the frets. These are controlled by the replacement finger board which is mounted below the neck. It has a double-row of buttons that let the player select the desired chord. One button chooses the key, with a second button acting as a modifier to switch to a seventh cord, or minor cord.

The project, which [Justin] has named folkBox, relies on a microcontroller. We spy an Arduino Mega in one of the build photographs but it will be interesting to see if the final project moves to a standalone chip. He’s set a goal for a more robust version of the build some time this summer.

[via Make]